Friday, September 19, 2008

Foggy Brain

Image by blatje
Brain fog. 

I've posted about it before. As a matter of fact, it was a key description in one of my earliest posts: 
I have discovered an equation that defines how I live my life these days. It is:

Tired = Stupid

I used to be one of those people who could walk and chew gum at the same time. I wasn't an Einstein, didn't have a photographic memory, but could remember most daily details. Usually I could identify my kids in a large group of people, remember where I parked the car, get myself to work and back home again, and had some general idea how much money was in the checking account. 

On days when I have a fair amount of energy, these things are still true, to a certain extent. But when my energy levels are low, my mind morphs into mush. Suddenly simple tasks require an enormous amount of concentration. My kids get referred to as "um...you...what's your name again?" I wander around the house looking for my car keys, which are inevitably right in my pocket. Dinner may be plus or minus key ingredients, if it gets made at all. 
My first significant experience with brain fog took place behind the wheel of my car. I had just finished an enjoyable but tiring outing with a friend. I waved good-bye to her, and looked at the road ahead. For what seemed like an hour, but in actuality was probably just a few seconds, I simply did not remember how to drive my car. In terror, I looked at the controls without any comprehension of what they were for. After a few deep breaths, suddenly the fog cleared, and I drove away, shaken.  I shared this experience with Dr. S., sure that I was developing Alzheimer's or another dementia. I listened to her explanation with great relief; which was this, taken from the Sjogren's World website
 
(brain fog) is a condition that most people are familiar with, and yet there is no medical term for it and it cannot be researched by putting ‘brain fog’ into an Internet search engine. The closest term would be ‘mild cognitive dysfunction,’ but this encompasses a wide spectrum of often subtle changes.
Brain fog is often experienced as problems with memory or difficulty focusing or problems with processing information or numbers or with paying attention. It is an experience of feeling not quite ‘all there’ mentally. While some people may feel they are becoming demented or developing Alzheimer’s disease, this generally is not the case, in that this is a different type of ‘dementia’ that is not likely to land a person in a nursing home for chronic care. In fact, brain fog is a relatively common condition that can be brought on by a variety of factors. 
For me, this factor is autoimmune disease. Another AI, lupus, is among many other conditions which may cause brain fog. The S.L.E Lupus Foundation's newsletter lists a few common sense strategies for dealing with brain fog:

  • Label drawers, cabinets and closets around your house to make it easier to find things once you've put them away.
  • Place post-it-notes with reminders in places you'll be sure to see them, such as by your door and in your car.
  • Organize and simplify your home and workspace and keep a schedule of events and appointments nearby.
  • Set your watch's alarm clock for when you need to take your medications.
  • Leave reminder messages for yourself on your cell phone's voice recorder or home answering machine.
  • Finally, when you feel brain fog coming on, try to take deep breaths and relax—knowing that it has come and gone many times before.

  • I have grudgingly come to accept brain fog as a consequence of my fatigue and energy mismanagement, and have learned that when the fog creeps in on little cat feet, it's time for me to put my feet up. 

    8 comments:

    Emily said...

    That sounds pretty scary! I have actually had similar experiences due to my lack of B12. Although, mine aren't as severe as not remembering how to drive, it is still unsettling. I have had a lot of trouble focusing or following my thoughts. Foggy brain is a great way to describe the feeling. My brain just doesn't seem to respond as quickly as I am use to. That can pose a problem at work sometimes!

    Lisa Milton said...

    I've had my share of brain fog lately. So much so that combined with my irregular cycle, I took a pregnancy test just to make sure I wasn't losing my mind.

    (I was completely scattered when pregnant.)

    Not pregnant, of course, but feeling confused makes me crazy.

    Amanda said...

    My favorite brain fog moments: Pumping gas? I know how to do that? Are you sure?
    Uh, you make the coffee.
    Um, where do I scan my credit card?

    The credit card thing was two days ago. I was looking right at the slot and didn't recognize it. I wish people had more patience for this kind of thing.

    rebaeich said...

    I've assumed for years that my "fog" was ADD and have recently started taking CONCERTA. Now, I wonder if it is just yet another symptom of my Sjogren's! This medication really hasn't helped a lot...maybe I'm treating something a pill won't help. Or...should I continue using it? Anyone have any great advice?

    Rayne said...

    I have this problem all the time and it feels as if the worse the lupus (SLE) and Sjogren's becomes, the worse it gets. I forget doctors' appointments, calling to make appointments, taking medications, changing my patch (fentanyl for joint disease associated with SLE Lupus and Sjogren's).

    The major downside for me is I am legally blind so I have come to put everything in my computer notebook in a digital calender so my screen reader will read it once the window pops up and dings at me. If it were not for this, I would forget the 3 day cycle of the patch, doctor appointments, making appointments, or keeping up with dates for events my husband, daughter, and/or I or we must attend although my attendance is often incumbent upon how I am feeling that day or before time to leave.

    I used to be called the walking dictionary, thesaurus, phone book, and book of little known factoids yet these last several years I would forget my name and my phone number (and have on a few occasions) if I didn't have it written down. I have to keep a paper in my purse with my phone number, medical history, medications, and emergency numbers along with a note explaining that I suffer from worsening bouts of brain fog. My doctor thought this was a good idea in case I became confused or turned around while alone with my guide dog or my cane. So far, it has helped out in many a tight jams. I also keep my husband's cell phone number and daughter's cell number on the paper too just in case I need to have someone come get me. I am also fortunate to have a small community within our small town who check on me regularly because during the school year, well up until January 2009, I was the only one home in our subdivision but after my husband became ill and unable to work, he is home now too or at his mother's house. I cannot draw up his insulin anymore because of my failed sight so his mother does this for us. He takes so much insulin and he is on two types with one he takes multiple times a day that he is generally at his mother's until he gets his last dose for the day then he comes home. It's safer that way because she is elderly and his vision is problematic right now too. I hope he doesn't have a return of diabetic retinopathy but we will find out soon enough if I can ever get him to an eye doctor who can make an appointment without it being 3-4 months out.

    I know how you feel and it is discombobulating at times. Then it is dowright annoying because I don't feel as if I ought to be old enough to have this type of problem or rather I didn't when it first started. Now I'm heading into 41 so I expect a little forgetfulness but this has gone well beyond forgetfulness though my doctor says it is normal considering the stages I am in and what I am dealing with. He also says that the worse the stress, the worse the brain fog is likely to be when it occurs. So, I do what I can to lower the stress and depression btw, Rebaeich, can be a root cause of stress so while the Concerta may not help you, I would not be beyond asking your doctor about a mild anti-depressant. I took anti-depressants after my husband suffered 2 heart attacks (minor, then massive to the point of almost taking his life), a stroke, and then a quadruple bypass heart surgery that left him with a ventilator tube down his throat and on a heart-lung bypass machine for weeks after the surgery because his body wasn't strong enough to breath or work his heart on its own.

    sending all my well wishes to everyone fighting these diseases and the symptoms that come with them.

    Debbie B said...

    Thank you for sharing this post! I was diagnosed with Primary Sjogren's in September; although, we realized that I have had it for years - undiagnosed. I was searching about what I could do for the lovely thing we all call "foggy brain." Like you, I have always been able to have several things happening at once until recently. I have been forgetting too many things - leaving the vacuum running while NOT using it. Leaving the stove on... Forgetting my debit pin card number. Good grief! It's enough to make a girl crazy - haha - or believe she's getting dementia.

    Anyway, it's nice to know that others are dealing with this issue and to have some practical things to be do help us. Honestly, I just want to feel normal again. But, perhaps, I never was normal. :)

    God bless,
    Debbie

    Jen said...

    You had me laughing out loud on forgetting how to drive your car, simply because I have found myself doing very similar things. It's terrible.

    Forgetting how to do simple things or holding something and not knowing what to do with it next. After a trip to the grocery store once, I found myself walking through my house for what seemed like hours, putting a package of soap bars away multiple time. From the counter, to the fridge, cabinet, on top of the dryer and finally decided to just stop until I could figure out what it was I was holding in my hand.

    Conversations have become almost entirely pointless these days and you're absolutely right. The worst times of all is when I've not had enough rest.

    I used to never be a nap taker, but since this journey has begun, naps are my friend and no doubt my husband and son appreciates me taking them too. Otherwise, nothing would get done.

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for making this blog! I also have major brain fog. I trail off at sentences and can't even remember what I was talking about. I used to be so smart and witty.

    I was a singer/songwriter and had a band. I did this for fifteen years, and 2 years ago the brain fog got so bad, that I actually would forget the chord progressions and lyrics to my OWN songs!!! I felt like I was falling apart. It was so unlike me.

    I have a question...does anyone else get severe stabbing pain in their pelvic bones (also knees and ankles at times). The sensation feels like an ice pick is in my pelvic bones, and the other sensation feels like someone is putting a bic lighter up to my ice pick holes and burning them.

    Have you even heard of that kind of pain? Thanks in advance.

    -Alice

    ShareThis